October 24th, 2011

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Review: The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer, vols 3, 4, and 5

The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer, vols. 3, 4, and 5. By Reed Waller and Kate Worley, with James M. Vance. Amerotica (NBM Publishing), 128 pp. (vols. 3 and 4) and 112 pp. (vol. 5), $12.95 each.

Reviewed by Gayle C. Straun

While the original run of Omaha—the classic erotic soap opera comic book series featuring talking animals—was marred by frequent delays and changes of publisher, this authoritative reprint of the series (with some extras thrown in) by NBM Publishing’s Amerotica line allows readers new and old to sit down and spend uninterrupted hours with these characters, which is how it should be read, for by the third volume, Omaha really begins to hit its stride. Here we find Omaha and Chuck newly returned to Mipple City, Minnesota, hoping to stake out a life of peace and quiet after their adventures in the previous volumes, though this serenity proves to be elusive at best. Chuck, who inherited his millionaire father’s business operations, slowly becomes entrenched in the shadow side of elite power, while Omaha tries to return to her job dancing at the local strip joint, only to discover that, in her absence, the local religious right, led by the malignant preacher Bonner, has tightened its hold upon the city and is determined to expunge anything smacking of indecency. But is this campaign for morality merely a cover for driving away established downtown businesses and thus getting some prime real estate on the cheap? What connection does Omaha’s friend Shelley, left in a wheelchair after a mob hit, have with the thugs who burned down the photography lab of her friend Rob, after ransacking it for illicit pictures of Mipple City elites? How does Bonner know that Omaha remains legally married to a man she hasn’t seen in years, and what will Chuck do when he finds out—especially since it comes right on the heels of discovering that his mother, long believed dead, is in fact alive?

Despite these webs of intrigue and conflict, reading Omaha does not summon a mental soundtrack of high-pitched organ music or other suspense chords so long the staple of daytime television or old radio series—otherwise, it would not have won multiple Eisner awards and inspired devotion from among the greatest names in the industry—including Alan Moore, Dave Sim, and Frank Miller. As Neil Gaiman noted in his introduction to the fifth volume, Omaha is drama, not melodrama, and nothing herein strains verisimilitude. In fact, Omaha traverses real-life territory but rarely touched by erotica and comic books alike: the struggle to regain a sex life after a debilitating injury, the personal problems created by wealth, religious hypocrisy, and the intricacies of city government. Combine that with honest discussion about open relationships, a debate over the rights of prostitutes, and naturalistic depictions of sex that actually further the plot (rather than being mere highlights linked together by a flimsy story), and you have a comic book that is adult in every sense of the word without ever losing its wonderful sense of playfulness and humor. In Omaha, we see life itself rendered as art, which is rare stuff indeed.

Mirrored from Circlet Press: Welcome to Circlet 2.0.